Annandale Center in downtown Cary celebrates Scottish culture

CorrespondentSeptember 30, 2013 

— When Pat Johnston was deciding how to spend her retirement years, she went back to her roots.

She and her late husband are from long lines of Scottish ancestry, something she has celebrated since attending Highland games as a child.

In March, Johnston and her daughter, Amy Mooney, joined forces to open the Annandale Center, Scottish Dance and More in downtown Cary.

The women wanted to provide a gathering space as well as a permanent studio ,so they bought a house adjacent to the Cary Arts Center several years ago and renovated it to suit their needs.

While private instructors offer dance lessons in the area, Annandale is the only stand-alone facility in the Triangle dedicated to Scottish dance. The name comes from the ancestral home of the Johnston clan.

The center offers a variety of classes, from the social Scottish country dancing to competitive Highland dancing as well as step dancing, piping and creative movement.

The studio supports competitive dancing, but it also accommodates recreational dancers.

“We want you to be able to perform and just enjoy dancing,” Johnston said.

Highland dancing refers to the centuries-old style of competitive solo dancing. Mooney, a champion dancer, has been practicing the sport since she was 9.

“The one thing I love about competitive Highland dancing is that the friendships are lifelong,” she said. “It is character-building. You want to win, but your competitors are your friends and you are cheering each other on. There are definite friendships among the fiercest competitors.”

Johnston added: “Kids who stick with Highland dance stay too busy to get into trouble.”

Competitions require a travel commitment, as there are few in North Carolina. An indoor competition is held in Cary in March. Johnston travels with her students when they compete.

“If you want to go the competitive route, it’s a great way to travel,” she said.

The week before the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games each summer, Johnston and Mooney run the School of Scottish Arts Dance Camp in Minneapolis, N.C.

Johnston, one of the founding members of the Scottish Cultural Organization of the Triangle, plans to host educational events at Annandale.

“That’s the ‘more’ part of the name,” she said, describing ideas for a lecture series. “I would like to have lectures on how to wear a kilt, how to speak Gaelic, Scottish cooking and so many more.”

This fall, Annandale is having Free Dance Fridays. On the second Friday of the month from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., anyone interested in learning about Scottish dancing is invited to participate in introductory classes and watch short performances.

“It’s very informal,” Johnston said. “Everyone is welcome to come in, and we will teach you a little.”

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